The Sound of the One Hand: 281 Zen Koans with Answers

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Yoel Hoffman
New York Review Books, Dec 6, 2016 - Philosophy - 304 pages
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When The Sound of the One Hand came out in Japan in 1916 it caused a scandal. Zen was a secretive practice, its wisdom relayed from master to novice in strictest privacy. That a handbook existed recording not only the riddling koans that are central to Zen teaching but also detailing the answers to them seemed to mark Zen as rote, not revelatory.

For all that, The Sound of the One Hand opens the door to Zen like no other book. Including koans that go back to the master who first brought the koan teaching method from China to Japan in the eighteenth century, this book offers, in the words of the translator, editor, and Zen initiate Yoel Hoffmann, “the clearest, most detailed, and most correct picture of Zen” that can be found. What we have here is an extraordinary introduction to Zen thought as lived thought, a treasury of problems, paradoxes, and performance that will appeal to artists, writers, and philosophers as well as Buddhists and students of religion.

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I have steadfastly refuse to read this book because it is the equivalent of cheat notes for zen students. Though I am pretty sure a zen master will see straight through the cheat without a problem I ... Read full review

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About the author (2016)

Yoel Hoffmann was born in 1937. He received his PhD in the philosophy of religion and Buddhism from Kyoto University, Japan, and went on to teach Eastern philosophy at the University of Haifa. In addition to his works of fiction, he is the author of several books on Zen Buddhism, comparative philosophy, and Japanese poetry. Hoffmann has been awarded the Koret Jewish Book Award, the Newman Prize of Hebrew Literature by Bar-Ilan University, and the Bialik Prize by the city of Tel Aviv. He lives in the Galilee.

Dror Burstein teaches literature at Tel Aviv University. He is the editor of the poetry journal Helikon and the recipient of the 1997 Jerusalem Prize for Literature. His books Kin and Netanya have been translated into English.

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